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Home Renovation Planning During Covid-19

Home Renovation Planning During Covid-19

Being stuck at home can be pretty boring as it is, but staring at the same walls for countless hours might inspire you to start planning a home renovation project. In an urban environment like San Francisco and the Bay Area, many social aspects of life have been shut down, resulting in plenty of spare time. COVID-19 has prompted many people to pick up the paintbrush or power tools. 

When planning home renovations during COVID-19, you should create a master plan before starting any home improvement projects. This can increase your home’s market value and reduce costs, time, and frustration. 

COVID-19 has limited availability of supplies and labor. However, many homeowners can take advantage of the extra time and online classes for their next project. Here’s everything you need to know about planning your Bay Area home renovation during COVID-19. 

Planning a Home Renovation During COVID-19

With social distancing measures limiting people’s social lives, reducing commuting times, or putting people out of work, many are turning to home renovations to fill their spare time. Businesswire.com notes that home improvement stores and garden centers have seen an increase of 22% in their sales.

With all the  time you have saved by not commuting to work and by wearing your pajama pants during your online meetings, you might be contemplating starting that home renovation project you’ve been putting off.  Or maybe staring at the same old cabinets or boring floor plan is driving you mad, and you feel like now is the time to go ahead and upgrade your home.

As evidenced, many people have had similar thoughts during the pandemic. While many might take unemployment numbers to indicate contractors and suppliers are looking for work, many restrictions and supply shortages are making home renovations more difficult. 

Make the  most out of the virtual tools available. Many apps now offer augmented reality to try new colors of paint on your walls before grabbing your paint roller, or the option to check what a new flooring might look like. Big box stores allow you to shop online to find the perfect fixture or appliance for delivery or to pick up curbside. Many consultants and contractors offer online or virtual meetings to do consultations and home walk throughs. 

Create a Master Plan For Your COVID-19 Renovation

Utilize your time to maximize your budget, and decide on the extent of renovations you’re willing to do. Create a master plan for your renovation. 

Your master plan should consider the improvements to your home that should happen sooner rather than later. You should also prioritize aspects that provide a return on investment, as potential market value increases or energy savings in your home. 

 Small interior renovation projects, leaky faucets, old carpet, or outdated appliances can be easily addressed. Any maintenance or repair items should be put high on the priority list. Finishes that are worn out, like carpet with traffic stains or dented and scuffed walls, can have a huge impact on the feel of the home and can be made a medium priority. 

Increasing Your Home’s Value

Creating a master plan for a major renovation project includes researching market value homes in your area. Different improvements can increase your market value, while others may end up costing more than the return. For example, adding a second restroom or a garage in an older community might add significant value in your area. For homes in other areas, upgrading appliances might provide a better return on investment. For yet others, upgrading the landscaping can add curb appeal and help get better, more competitive offers. 

In the Bay Area, increasing the curb appeal, such as replacing garage doors and front doors, goes a long way. Other improvements that result in the highest returns include adding stone veneer, upgraded lighting, an upgraded kitchen, and new windows. However, renovating a bathroom doesn’t add as much as one might think. 

If you think you might sell your home within a few years, taking advantage of the pandemic may help you see a return on investment when your house hits the market. 

How to Budget or Finance Your Renovation

 Larger projects, such as creating a separate kids area, away from your home office,  may cost more than your available savings. A large scale renovation can be financed through different options. Here are a few options to consider: 

  1. Personal loans: You might qualify for a personal loan through a bank, credit card, or other financial institution. This might be a good choice if you can pay it off quickly, as some of these options may have a high-interest rate. The maximum dollar amount you can finance is typically lower than other options. 
  2. Refinancing: Refinancing the mortgage on your home may be worth considering given historically low mortgage rates. If your home’s mortgage’s interest rate is variable or higher than 4-5%, you may consider refinancing. To fund your home improvement project, you can opt for a “cash-out refinance” to provide additional funds for your project. 
  3. Home Equity Line of Credit: If your existing mortgage has a good interest rate, you can consider a line of credit. This adds additional funds to your mortgage, increasing the amount you have left to pay. However, you can spend the money like cash, to pay for your home renovation. 
  4. Home Equity Loan: For this option, you can borrow against the equity you have invested in your home, if you don’t have a mortgage, or without touching your existing mortgage. These interest rates are typically higher than first or traditional mortgages. 

Before financing a large renovation project, also consider the long term viability of your job. Taking out a new loan or mortgage may not be the best option if you were to suddenly become jobless. 

Risks Associated with Large Projects

While you might feel like you have plenty of time, COVID-19 has made many aspects of life uncertain for many people. You may not know when you will be able to return to work. Some people aren’t sure if they’ll still have a job next week. During this time, it’s important to consider the risk involved in starting a large home renovation project. 

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that unemployment jumped from 4.4% to 14.7% between March and April. The current rate of 8.4% is still more than double the pre-pandemic numbers, which were in the mid 3% range. That number is still higher in the Bay Area, where the latest numbers still show unemployment above 10%. 

Consider starting your home renovation project with do-it-yourself projects, and use available cash on hand. Repainting walls, refinishing floors, or redecorating can be done over a weekend or several nights. If you can afford the supplies, these types of home renovation projects can be easily finished before your circumstances change (for better or worse). 

Phasing Your Construction for Utility and Usability

Social distancing, shelter in place restrictions, or other pandemic impacts, may mean that you’re stuck at home. Some major renovation projects may impact spaces you need to live in your home. For example, renovating your kitchen may mean that you have to live on microwave dinners and paper plates. If you have only one shower, can you survive the overhaul of your bathroom? 

Check out your options for phasing or living outside your home for a time, while your renovation is being completed. You may decide you can replace a sink in your kitchen as you have a sink in your bathroom, but don’t plan on replacing both at the same time. 

If you need to leave your home for a couple of days while a contractor works on part of your project, look into options for hotels, motels, or campsites in your area. Many temporary lodging may be closed, operating with reduced staff, or using fewer rooms due to COVID-19 restrictions in your area. Plan ahead to make sure you have somewhere to go. Make sure the hotel you choose follows the state’s requirements for cleaning and sanitation

Permitting, Plan Check, and the Impact of COVID-19

Major home renovations that move walls, reroute electrical wiring, plumbing, or mechanical equipment may require approval by the local jurisdiction. Many cities and counties have a process called “plan check.” 

In this process, your contractor, architect, or rarely, yourself, can submit construction drawings for the jurisdiction’s review to ensure the plans meet code and local requirements. If the drawings meet the requirements, the jurisdiction will give a building permit to the contractor. 

Many jurisdictions have been hit hard by COVID, causing delays in issuing permits. Many cities have changed the way the process works, resulting in additional fees or delays. The city of San Francisco, for example, has limited services, as noted on their website

Make sure you understand what the requirements in your area include, ahead of time. If your project isn’t properly permitted, an inspector can require your project to be shut down until you obtain a permit. Getting shut down can cause costly delays for your schedule and budget. 

If you get through plan check and onto construction, you may also find difficulties in getting inspections completed. The jurisdiction typically sends an inspector out to make sure the installation was completed according to code. However, some areas may not be allowing inspectors out into the field. If they are, they may require that the site be vacant for a certain amount of time prior to them coming out. 

DIY or Hiring a Contractor for Your Home Renovation

Some home improvement projects can be a fun activity for you, your significant other, or your family. Especially if you feel cooped up or bored of watching streaming TV all day. A do-it-yourself project might be a great way to pass the time. 

Many home improvement projects require a certain amount of skill that many homeowners don’t typically have. How to lay tile or carpet, hang cabinets, or put in baseboards could be learned through a class, but may not yield the most finished appearance if you do it yourself without practice. 

Hiring a contractor can be a more expensive option but you’ll typically end up with a better result. Some projects may necessitate hiring a skilled contractor, such as modifying your electrical routing or underground plumbing pipes. Typically, these types of projects will also require building permits. 

When creating your  renovation plan, make sure you have seriously considered if you’re able to complete the project yourself. If you have any doubts, you can reach out to several contractors to get estimates for how much the project might cost. Also consider if the contractor provides labor only (where you have to buy the materials yourself). 

Hiring the Right Contractor

Online review platforms like Yelp, Google, or Amazon can help you find contractors in your area with good reviews. Make sure you get accurate estimates and thoroughly review each quote before making your selection. 

During the pandemic, many businesses may prefer to conduct virtual meetings and interviews prior to signing your contract. Make sure you also ask about their pandemic safety protocols for their teams. Some contractors may prefer that you and your family are not present while they’re working. Be sure to ask about their sanitation procedures, too, if you plan to be around. 

According to MercuryNews.com, many construction sites have been hot spots for COVID-19 outbreaks. Even though construction is considered an essential business, there is still a significant amount of risk involved. A contractor that takes safety protocol lightly may be more likely to take their quality of work lightly as well. 

San Francisco  has a public health order that notes the requirements contractors have to follow. If you notice your contractor is not following these requirements, you have the right to report them. 

Online Home Improvement Classes

If you opt to do your home renovation yourself, make sure you understand how to complete your project before starting. Even basic projects can take longer and cost more if you don’t know what you’re doing. 

Due to many restrictions limiting the total number of people that can gather together, many home improvement classes have moved to online platforms. If you couldn’t make it to classes previously due to pre-COVID-19 time commitments, you can now learn these skills online for your next project. 

Try finding classes such as Home Depot’s live streaming services, or Lowe’s How To Guides

COVID-19’s Impact on Home Improvement Materials and Labor

One of the most difficult aspects of planning a home improvement project during COVID-19 includes fighting for resources with all the other homeowners that are doing their own projects. Many home improvement supply stores are facing shortages due to supply chain disruption and high demand. You may also be surprised that there aren’t as many contractors available to do your project. 

Shortage of Materials May Mean Price Increases

Many manufacturers have found that they have to operate with fewer staff or can’t continue operating at all due to social distancing guidelines. In addition, they sometimes face shortages of materials. Subsequently, there may be delays in receiving supplies of certain products. In addition,

due to shortages or disruptions, materials can be priced at a premium. While online sellers might be able to crack down on blatant price gouging, there’s nothing preventing sellers from raising prices. Some prices might be understandable, such as increased costs to manufacture or to obtain the materials. 

Labor Shortages Due to COVID-19

Many people projected that contractor pricing would be more competitive during the pandemic. Typically, being more competitive helps contractors win more projects to keep their staff employed during times of economic uncertainty. However, the market shows that due to high demand for increased home improvement projects as well as larger construction projects, many contractors have increased their prices. 

Additionally, due to many jurisdictions requirements for maintaining social distancing on construction sites, contractors may need to work with smaller crews, resulting in longer schedules. This reduces the number of projects they’re able to support in the same time frame. 

Skilled labor is more impacted than general laborers. Electricians, plumbers, and other specialty trades are more scarce. Probuilder.com says that 77% of builders have noticed an impact on their business due to a reduction in willingness or availability of skilled workers during the pandemic. 

Make Your Master Plan a Reality During COVID-19

If you’re like many other homeowners looking for a home improvement project, creating a master plan and priority list is key. During these uncertain times, you must be prepared and flexible to deal with supply shortages, labor shortages, price uncertainty, and continuously changing social distancing restrictions. 

With all the extra time on hand, now is the perfect chance to make the most of the pandemic and bring new life to your quarantine headquarters. 

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